14 Falls (IT'S BEAUTIFUL!!!)

Thika Travel Blog

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Today we woke up hoping to go to Hell’s Gate, a national park about two hours outside of Nairobi.  Nan, Feng and I met up with Leigh and Abby at Java.  It was raining on and off that morning and George (the house father of Lee and Abby) said if it is raining here, than it is really raining out in Hell’s Gate, and it would be to muddy to really enjoy it.  We needed a plan B.  Luckily for us, James (chief coordinator of Fahdili Community) came to Java for breakfast and happened to sit down next to us.  He said Hell’s Gate was way too far away for today.  Abby, looking through her Rough Guide, came up with the idea of going to 14 falls.  James said we could certainly make that from here.  He said if we just take a matatu downtown, ask someone how to get the bus terminal by the Marikiti Market, take a bus to Matuu and ask them to drop you off at 14 falls.  This sounded easy enough, so we packed up our things and hopped on the next matatu downtown.  As we arrived, the Matatu driver gave us some very brief instructions on how to get the market.  We did our best to follow them, but sure enough, they stopped making sense after about three blocks and we had to ask someone off the street for further instruction.  This was a mistake.  Everyone we talked to thought they knew where the proper bus was but we were literally sent walking in circles.  I got sick of this cycling through the city and just started asking people where the Marikiti market was.  We walked about 20 more minutes to the market and finally found someone who really knew where the appropriate busses were.  This bus station, well more of a bus parking lot, was pure chaos.  Busses revved their engines as they rocked back and forth in their parking space, venders pedaled everything from peanuts to suit coats, and conductors trying to sell seats on their respective shuttles.  Well we found the least sketchy bus around and started to negotiate the fare.  Now these conditions were not very conducive to us getting the best deal, we were being bothered left and right by vendors, the bus was constantly lurching back and forth as if it were about to take off, and the air was filled with dust and exhaust.   It was pretty miserable and we did as best we could before we couldn’t tolerate it anymore and simply got on the bus.  Despite all the revving of the engine, that bus wasn’t going anywhere.  We sat there, rocking back and forth as venders came back on the bus and stood outside the windows, the girls were constantly receiving romantic propositions and lewd looks from men in the adjacent busses and there was a mounting confrontation taking place outside.  I think we all wanted to strangle James at about this point.  Finally the bus began to move only to resettle on the other side of the bus station as a new fleet of vendors came aboard to squeeze whatever shillings they could out of us.  After about 40 minutes of this hell the bus finally took off for Matuu.  The ride there was a little better than the time spent at the parking lot.  Very bumpy, hot, crowded, and luggage fell on precious Nan twice, one from either side of the aisle.  When we arrived at our stop, we found ourselves on the side of a country road with the only sign of life was a small convenience store next to a dirt road that disappeared into the horizon. We made the assumption that 14 falls laid somewhere down that dirt road.  As we approached, a matatu appeared out of the distance with a cloud of dirt trailing behind it.  Well after the extended period of sitting on a cramped, hot bus, time on a matatu did not seem appealing, so we decided to walk.  Well we walked and walked, past farm fields, over swamps, and through a small town, fallowing signs and peoples directions as best we could.  After nearly an hour of wandering we found ourselves on a narrow dirt path along small homes and farm plots.  A teenage boy, noting that we looked a little confused, offered to show us down to 14 falls. Normally we wouldn’t take up such an offer, but we had no idea where we were going at this point.  The boy lead us through these narrow passages between large, green bushes, about ten feet high on either side.  When we emerged, we found ourselves on this large rock formation with water running over it and people washing their clothes in the running water.  Leigh and I hung back to take some photographs as the others forged ahead through another bushy area.  One of the members of our group, Abby, is a very vocal individual, both in volume and forwardness.  As leigh and I stood there taking it all in we heard Abby, clear as day let out this loud cry, “IT’S BEAUTIFUL!!!” Leigh and I looked at each other and began to laugh, but Abby was right.  As soon and you make it through the next bush barrier, you are at the top of a 14 waterfalls, all about 25 to 30 feet tall, in a crescent shape.  It is really stunning.  The boy met up with a few of his friends who offered to show us around.  We decided to accept, and they took us down to this large island just in front of the falls.  We hung out there for a while, watched the falls, took some pictures and made some videos. To the left was a large vertical rock, which I just had to climb.   It wasn’t a problem making it up, but the damn kids insisted on trying to show me the way, which actually made it a little dangerous.  After I made it up I decided to take some pictures.  I tried to climb down to a lower section of the rock with my camera in my pocket to get a better shot, but the camera slipped out and fell amongst the rocks.  As soon as the kids saw my camera plummet towards the earth, they went scampering to find as many parts as they could.  They brought back both: the lens, which had snapped off, and the main part of the camera.  I figured I could fix it later and tried to begin my decent.  This turned out to be far harder than I hand anticipated.  Luckily the kids were there to show me a complicated root system, which could be used as a ladder down the backside of the rock.  After we made it down, the kids took us to the other side of the island where there were boats waiting to take people across the river, which we assumed we needed to do to get back to the bus stop.  Well the boat driver wanted 100 schilings a head to go about 40 ft.  we all decided this was to much and we would rather cross the water above the falls where it was shallow and we cold walk.  The kids were tad surprised by this decision but agreed to show us the way.  We climbed back up the side of the falls to the top, about 30 ft before the precipice.  This part of the trip was a real adventure.  We all had to take our shoes off and hold hands because parts of the trek were very slippery.  The river was at least 100 ft across.  We all had our moments of close calls and tangled acrobatics leaving no one ungrateful for the other members in our party.  Feng was the only one to actually get wet but it was only up one leg.  After tricking Abby into believing there was a crocodile in the water, we safely made it across.  Once on the other side we told the kids we needed to get back to Nairobi.  They informed us there was a matatu that traveled directly to Nairobi but you had to pick it up in town, back on the other side of the river.  We couldn’t believe it.  We were so exhausted and now we had to walk an extra four kilometers to the bridge to cross the river to get to the town that was about one kilometer from the other side of the river we had just crossed.  Well we walked along the side of the river with the kids, they showed us where hippos slept.  We watched them for a while.  You couldn’t actually see the Hippos, but you could hear them breath and see the swamp plants shift as the animals moved.  After watching for about 20 minutes, we made our way to town.  The kids got us to the matatu safely so we decieded to give them a pretty good tip of more than 100 schillings each. And made our way home.  On the way home I cut myself eating dried mangos.  I was trying to tear one in half with my canines and when it snapped, it just barely sliced the outside of my cheek.  That was an awkward thing to explain to the other members party.  We arrived in downtown Nairobi and it was already dark so we decided to grab a taxi home.  Nan, feng and I live just outside of Kawangware slum and Leigh and Abby live inside it.  Nan, Feng and I were dropped off first, and then Leigh and Abby.  Apparently the cabbie started freaking out as soon as they entered Kawangware.  They were pretty much just dropped off outside their house in the middle of Kawanquare after dark.  A scary though but they made it in alright.  We were all exhausted and just went to bed.  It was a good day. 

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photo by: Baosafari